Set in the far-flung future, in a universe where man has reached the edges of known space leaving no more resources to discover or acquire peacefully comes Fractured Space. In this game you are thrust into the middle of a pitched conflict between The USR (United Space Research), Zarek Industries and TDS (Titan Defense Systems). To them you are one of thousands of faceless pilots who live on their space stations, fly their ships and fight their war.
Sounds pretty good, doesn't it?
Fractured Space is a free-to-play MOBA-style space fighter in which you are put in control of one of 31 types of capital ships, teamed up with four more then flung against five opponents. With you team (or sometimes without) you will warp from your starting base into one of two forward bases, from there you will skirmish over three mining stations which along with a dozen or so large asteroids inhabit the space between yours and your enemies forward base. Capturing these mines will gives your team resources which in turn is used to upgrade the combat, defence or utility of your ship. Capturing the enemy forward base will allow you to jump to their home base and capture it which will bring your team victory.
So in short the main point of the game is to gain enough of an economical edge over your opponents that you can push through the defences of their home base and capture it. On top of this you have the gas refinery in the centre of the map which becomes active every eight minutes causing a sudden flurry of jump drives as everyone jumps to this single objective and engages in a space battle that to be honest puts some sci fi shows to shame. Five hulking ships weaving in and around the rotating decks of a huge gas refinery blasting chunks from one another is truly a sight to behold…. The first few times.
I'm sure after seeing the words fFree to play” many of you are already a little sceptical. Yes the base game itself is free and like most free to play games all the base parts of the game can be unlocked via currency earned in game. It is however a long slog and earning enough credits to unlock all the ships and upgrade your crew will require many hours of investment. That is unfortunately how these games work and the online store has starter packs specifically to get you a good boost and keep you playing. So for example £23 will unlock six ships, 1000 platinum, 50 credit boosters, 10 packs of crew and 30,000 DNA which will give you a decent start and allow you to specialise a favoured play style or broaden your tactics.
Now onto the ships. Yes, I did say 31 earlier and yes, strictly speaking, there are 31 different playable ships in the game. That said they are split among each of the three factions meaning every faction has a stealth ship, every faction had a tank ship and every faction has a fast ship..etc. While I admit each factions ship fulfils their role in a different way the ships are the same base concept which means they don't play all that differently from their counterpart in other factions. On top of this many of the “support” class ships seems to be near useless in the base level of play. While I admit at organised and competitive levels of play they have their uses, in the base casual game they are little more then cannon fodder for the attack ships and brawlers. So between all of this I would say realistically you will be seeing the same four or five base types of ship.
This also leads me nicely on to my main issue with the game and that is the combat. Every ship has a primary fire, a secondary fire, utility, point defence and jump drive controlled by the left mouse button, right mouse button and number keys respectively. This means on many ships you will find yourself aiming at an enemy and simply holding down the left mouse button, yes there is a degree of aiming involved as targets will be moving and all ships have weak spots. Despite this you will simply be pointing and clicking while occasionally punctuating the drone of your ma,in weapon with an emp pulse or round of missile fire. This was the main reason I found myself getting tired of long matches in the same ship. Hearing the steady Thud…..Thud….Thud of my own main cannons firing swiftly lead me to insanity. Then switching to another ship and hearing the thudthudthud…...thudthudthud of my repeating cannon volley for another entire game only increased this feeling.
This all combined makes the combat itself in terms of inflicting damage to another ship feel fairly lacking. However the positioning and lead up to these events are fantastic. The feeling of playing the nimble Reaper ship with its forward firing volley as you crest over a hulking asteroid to discover the Gauss cannon wielding Overseer that has been pummelling your team from across the map. The glee of seeing his main gun slowly turn as he realises his incoming doom as you glide down the asteroid with your gun ports roaring is frankly second to none. This moment is what the game does amazingly and frankly that moment is what any sci fi fan already adores. The single flurry of explosions when two hulking masses of metal bristling with guns turn broadside to each other and begin blasting each other apart is relived perfectly through Fractured space. The build up, the positioning, the deep breath as you train your guns on the enemy and hold for that perfect volley. It's all done with such immaculate precision that you can feel the developers adoration of space combat.
For a free-to-play game, Fractured Space is well worth at least a play. Just for those moments of unrelenting awesome between the relatively dull pot-shots, flying from A to B and waiting on a re spawn timer. Compared to other MOBA-tyle games such as League Of Legends or Dota, players may also find it lacking in depth, the lack of minions or things to kill that are not players makes the world feel a little empty and the capture style system leads to everything just happening by itself. In spite of all of this the game is graphically striking, fun and free. So for me at least I consider it solid.